Two things happened last night during the hour formally known as my favourite of the day. It had just turned seven in the evening and I was freshly out of the bath after a day spend crawling about in the cupboard under the stairs arguing with myself about what to do with tools I can’t identify and boots that don’t belong to me, so I was tired, content and ready for Emmerdale, with tea doing itself in the air fryer, fairy lights making the living room glow, and my face lightly coated in my once monthly spoon of castor oil, as I anticipated an evening of cosy calm in a floaty kimono and a pair of Father Christmas slipper socks.
Then there was a knock on the door, so I dashed through the house to open it, quite disregarding the fact that I looked like a Japanese basted chicken in deeply unseasonal socks and found the man who delivers things standing on my doorstep, refusing to handover my grocery order until I gave him my date of birth. So I told him with a winning, greasy smile, that it was the same as his. Because every time he comes-a-calling, I give him my date of birth and he looks at me in astonishment and says, well would you ever, that is the exact same date as mine, and we stand about in silent agreement that Aries children of the early 1970’s are the bestest of people and then he gets on his way and I lug said delivery into the house. Only this time I took it in to my head to answer his question with what I assumed was mutual familiarity and was rewarded for my efforts at friendly doorstep banter with deep suspicion of the kind that looked like he was debating whether a loud whistle for the local Bobby might be in order.
I was perplexed and so it seems was he, so the matter was closed in a nod of the head and I lugged many a bottle of nano-plastic filled bottles of water into the kitchen and walked slap bang into the biggest wasp I have ever seen, who didn’t so much as sting me, but swatted me, so I dropped the water in fright, and then heard the bleep of the air fryer and in the muddle of wasps and water, flung open the drawer and popped my hand in to grab the black pudding that was the sturdy portion of my intended pesto drizzled mushroom, tomato and halloumi stack, quite forgetting that it was likely to be hot and flinging said black pudding across the kitchen so it landed in the puddle of spilled water and the little cat laughed to see such fun and the dish ran away with the spoon.
And that dear reader is how my evening was lost to chasing lost wasp, mopping up water and abandoning culinary delight in favour of mushrooms on toast.
I am not myself at the moment. I mean, I might be. This might in fact be the real me. Who can tell? But I do believe I might be out of sorts in quite the cosiest way. For despite calamities of the black pudding kind I am enjoying a kind of candlelit, squirrely hibernation. My phone isn’t working properly so I am not constantly demented by the bleep of Whatsapp, and I have barely left the house for days on end now, as I slowly but surely work my way through the each room emptying drawers and cupboards as if I was moving out next week, for though I will not be physically moving until much later in the year, my heart left the building eighteen months ago and my attachment to the lars and pennants of the life I thought would always be ours is tenuous and seemingly meaningless now. So I find myself picking over the carcass of what was, alone. Chucking out somebody else’s memories. Not so much trying to determine what brings me joy, but now bin-bagging all those things that are but evidence of the joy that simply wasn’t enough. And it is both horribly hard and stunningly easy, for I can see in all the evidence of who we were during the years that we were a family, in all the things left behind, that this was a house veritably stuffed with love, and that I never ever let myself down by providing anything but love, so I can let it all go with grace and gratitude for the happy times and hope that he who let such happiness suffocate him, will one day be able to look back and see that it was everything, and so much more, if not least the key to a door that had been stuck for way too many years before me.
I think then, it could be said that I am not so much myself as in the act of becoming someone else. The tomorrow me. I mean obviously I am not a girl for changing. I still headbutt wasps, fling black pudding around the place and cry over spilt water. I am still me. But in the past few weeks something inside of me has shifted, not imperceptibly in the way change has long crept around me before now, nor forced in the way my Renaissance had to be last year, but a kind of jolting now or never shift that has left me reeling and made the embracing of the life I have now seem so very urgent.
A few weeks ago my Dad came to stay and as we sat sharing a bottle of red wine and spilling out what goes so often unsaid in the very real distance now between us, he said, “This is a beautiful life Alison. You have made such a beautiful life. Your house, your boy, your friends, your work, the way you live, you. You should be so very proud. I know how hard it is right now and I know how much it hurts, but you did all this despite everything and if you carry on the way you are, if you carry on being brave and strong, I promise it will get better, so try not to be scared.“
So I am trying so very hard not to be. I am packing now because I have to change the habit of a lifetime and not leave everything to the last minute and I am letting things go bin bag, by bin bag because they are burning holes in my beautiful life and it is time to put the fire out. I am trying not to be scared.
Tonight then. A call from Mark who always seems demented by the kind of urgency he worries I do not feel when he gets to worrying about me. He mutters and I say “What?” a lot and we both put the phone down feeling better. Then out into the bitter cold to lug bins around and carry out the overhang from Christmas I have been harbouring while waiting for the binmen to adopt their usual schedule. Back inside to a house that only feels warm until I sit still, at which point I consider the wearing and declaring of a “house-hat”. A meal of torn mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and garlicy protein bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The quiet buzz of the wasp I cannot see, still lurking in the kitchen. An old tablet wiped and brought back to life so I can play silly games on it, wearing pyjamas, eating popcorn and singing “this is the life, bo-bo, bo-bo ba bo“…
For this is the life! It may not be the one I would have chosen, and it definitely isn’t the one I imagined, but living alone is abundant with daft benefit. I can watch nonsense like Madame Blanc (delightfully silly) and Arthur’s Whisky (downright ludicrous), steal chocolate out of Finn’s stash, have late night showers and talk out loud to a cat who doesn’t care if my political opinion isn’t what it should be.
And I can do it all in a ridiculous t-shirt, with castor oil on my face and hope in my heart while tomorrow’s me cheers me on towards her and yesterday’s me wraps her arms around herself and whispers, “keep going”.
How fortuitous it is that it is almost my favourite hour of the day again. Have a lovely night won’t you?